Simplifying our Homeschool with (more) Notebooking {Part 1 – some thoughts}

Simplifying by adding MORE?  I think so, yes.  Let me explain…

I have been thinking quite a bit about the coming year of homeschool, as I’m sure many of us do throughout the Summer.  Even though we are year-round homeschoolers, there is still this undeniable feeling of ‘beginning’ in September.  A feeling I actually really love!

So, with this approaching ‘beginning’ of sorts, I’ve been in planning mode.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever NOT in planning mode…?  But, I have been thinking and researching quite a bit about notebooking these past few days, so I thought I’d share an informal post with you on this subject.

What you read here is literally coming straight from my heart and (somewhat whirling) mind… no real editing of fancy wording, let’s just chat homeschooling for a few minutes.

To be honest, sometimes I have a hard time figuring out what is worthwhile and meaningful in our homeschool.  I’ve been reading lots about that dreaded ‘busywork’ and feeling a bit sheepish, to be honest.  I mean, I’m deeply contemplating – what is actually classified as busy work and what isn’t!?  
What kind of work is fruitful, beneficial and necessary and what is just me wanting to have some random hard-copy proof that we’ve done something.  Even if it was ME who cut and pasted that flap down… AND copied the sentence under there (ehem!).

I don’t want to do meaningless things, so why should I expect my children to want to do meaningless things?

How do we invest in meaningful work in our homeschool?  Not time-fillers, not busy-work, not just-fill-in-the-blanks-so-we-can-put-a-check-mark-on-the-schedule-work.

I want more for our children.  I want them to be excited about learning.  I want them to want to record their findings and inspirations.  I desperately want to avoid the, “ARE WE DONE YET?!” question that is asked almost daily.  (Is this possible?!)

I had to chat to you all because – I’m loving what I’m learning about the power of NOTEBOOKING.  I’ve been reading about simply combining lots of wonderful living books, oral narration, and Notebooking to create a winning combination for real learning in the home.  

That’s it.

1. Read.
2. Tell me what you know.
3. Show me what you know in your notebook.

But, it sounds too simple, doesn’t it?

Do any of you lovely Moms do this already?  We do this to an extent.  We have been using lapbooks and notebooks for years but I’m looking into how we can simplify even more and really go back to these age-old disciplines of narration (we do this but struggle to be really intentional), and written narration in the form of Notebooking.  And not doing it as an add-on but doing it as our bulk.

I stumbled upon NotebookingPages.com a little bit ago and I LOVE their stuff.  We’ve used so many pages in the few short weeks we’ve been subscribed.

Last night, I was reading through and watching the videos in the Tutorials section and found the information really inspiring/thought provoking.  I thought it was important to share because I can feel my wheels turning with regards to how we can really improve our day-to-day progress in our homeschool.  Here is a link to the Tutorials I’m referring to. 

Here is my Notebooking and Lapbooking board on Pinterest, if you’d like to follow:

Follow Cassandra Dorman’s board Notebooking and Lapbooking on Pinterest.

So, what is Notebooking ? 

In a nutshell (this truly is a super fast, simplified answer) – Notebooking is a way for children to creatively express (on paper) what they have learned.   I’m not talking about worksheets, fill in the blanks, or busy work.  Notebooking is unique in that it gives creative licence for children to use their own gifts and talents to express what was important or interesting to them about a certain subject.  
From NotebookingPages.com:

Notebooking is …Creating and compiling a personalized notebook of learning experiences, new knowledge, insights, sketches, illustrations, creative writing, reflections, and more! This is not a diary, but more like a scrapbook of things learned.  The notebook takes on the personality of its author (your child) as he decides what content to include, how to present it, how to organize it, … how to shape what he’s learned.  The notebook captures the journey of your child’s learning. His notebooks not only record new knowledge, but also reflect his deepening understanding of the world, his developing writing voice and creative talents.

What’s on my mind…

So, what I’ve been really considering lately is how to implement more Notebooking (and better Notebooking) into our homeschool and how to do it more intentionally and effectively.  
After listening to Debra Reed’s introduction video on NotebookingPages.com, I was left considering how we can truly move towards more freedom in our homeschool.   (I highly recommend watching the video, it is really helpful/inspiring!)
I often overload myself with expectations – checklists and often unattainable ideals and goals.  I also find that that busy work does creep into our homeschool, even despite my greatest efforts to avoid it.  I also find that I struggle to manage time and often, even though I spend hours creating (what I think are) fun and engaging studies, our children STILL constantly ask when they will be ‘done’ their work.  This isn’t what I want for them!

So, I’m really looking into what truly embracing Notebooking looks like on a day to day basis.

Will a child truly develop a deep love of learning and grow in their knowledge and ability with the simple recipe of living books, narration, and notebooking?

I’m determined to find out for myself.  I believe the answer is yes, children can achieve a very high level of success with this recipe – but I haven’t truly tried it.  Not full-out.

So, that’s where I’m wading this week.  Mulling it over and praying, and considering what truly is our busy work, how we can simplify, and how I can really inspire our children to not only love learning, but to engage in their OWN learning experiences, becoming successful, self-motivated, life-long learners.  (Help me, Lord!)

Thanks for sharing in my rambles.  I pray they have touched you and maybe even inspired you to consider these ideas in your homeschool as well.  We’re all in this together… I’d love to hear your thoughts!

{Please, join me for Part 2 of this post on Notebooking in a few days!}

A Whole Bunch of Helpful Links I’ve found for Notebooking Ideas, Printables, and Freebies:

NotebookingPages.com (one of the best sites  I’ve found for notebooking!)
Mamas Learning Corner (Great Notebooking Freebies!)
Layers of Learning Printables
Notebooking with a Structured Writing Plan
I am constantly linked tons of free Notebooking Printables to Pinterest
Donna Young’s Notebooking Pages
Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood Notebooking
Notebooking on a Shoestring
Inside a Writer’s Notebook
FIAR Notebook Builder
The Notebooking Fairy
Homeschool Helper Online
Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool

I loved this video from a homeschool Mom – great examples of how Notebooking can go right (and wrong!)

The Tutorials from NotebookingPages.com are here.

I wanted to share that Notebooking Pages is having a sale right now until August 7th, if you are interested in checking it out, here is a link:

Back-to-School Membership Sale

Some snapshots of a few of the Notebooking pages we’ve created in our homeschool:

Notebooking Pages LIFETIME Membership


  • Tristan

    Ooo, where do I begin with my comments? Let me address the "are we done yet?" question. For my family the game changer was giving the kids daily assignment sheets so they knew what subjects to tackle that day. I'm talking basic. Yesterday on my 14 year old's sheet it read: History Revealed (group subject), One Year Adventure Novel, Literature, Math U See. She knew that meant once she had done each of those areas she was done for the day. She knows the guidelines for each subject. Literature she reads a chapter and narrates to me orally or on paper. Math she does the next page. One Year Adventure Novel she watches the next video, reads any lesson material, and works on the corresponding page in her 'map' where she's planning her novel. History Revealed we do as a family (I have 8 children with baby #9 due this fall).
    A younger child yesterday had these things on his assignment sheet: History Revealed, Math U See, Reading with Mom, and Copywork. He knows right now his copywork is related to calendars and waits in his binder. He grabs me when he's ready to practice reading. You get the idea. None of my kids asks when school will be over because they can see it on their page. When I had fewer children I would just write up on the corner of the dry erase board the subjects we wanted to hit that day (math, nature study, art, whatever it was). As we got to them things were erased. When the list was gone we were done.

    On to notebooking – I love it and most of my kids do too. Sometimes the best thing we've done is had a random selection of pages printed and in a folder for kids to choose from (more generic decorations and blank topics that they can illustrate and write on). Or if I know a child will be exploring a specific topic I'll print a variety of themed pages for them to pick through.

  • Jill

    "Will a child truly develop a deep love of learning and grow in their knowledge and ability with the simple recipe of living books, narration, and notebooking?"

    I have been pondering this very question as well. It sounds delightfully simple and wonderful. I have yet to fully implement it in my home though as I wonder if this is really enough. It sounds so…simple. Attainable even. Read, tell, write. Your post is spurring me on to just go ahead and try it {so thank you!}. I look forward to Post #2!!

  • Unknown

    I am going to use note booking in our school year a little bit more this year. Instead of just the textbooks I am putting together a Unit Study for the American Girl dolls. I have three girls and they spend their days playing with them, so I thought this would be a natural transition from playing to learning… I am really looking forward to it. I think the note booking will be a fun part of the day.

    I purchased the Five In A Row Starter Kit, and it came in the mail yesterday. I get more excited about it the more I look through it. Your enthusiasm is truly contagious. Thank you for all your great posts 🙂

  • Ivy Mae

    I'm looking forward to part 2, because this very subject has been plaguing me recently. I am to the point where I'm wondering what on earth I need curriculum for in the elementary years. Can't I just substitute living books and notebooking? However, my son hates to draw and color– "I'm just not a coloring boy, Momma!" So that makes me nervous…
    Thanks for the post!

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